Friday, April 26, 2013

Counterfeits! A Spiritual Warfare

    Lessons from 2 Timothy 3

This week I heard a news story about how the Associated Press's Twitter account had been hacked. Within minutes, thousands of people had virally retweeted from this trusted source of information, unknowingly and exponentially spreading a lie that the White House had experienced explosions. The effects were dramatic, including a huge, albeit temporary, plummet in the stock market. 

Though it was rectified quickly and diffused almost as immediately as it had happened, it made me think about the vulnerability of not only these social media platforms, that they seem not to be able to guard against this sort of malicious hacking, but also that people were so trusting of the source that they, without question, passed on false information.

There are certainly spiritual applications galore in this story. In a spiritual sense, we are warned by Paul in his second letter to Timothy that counterfeits - false teachers and prophets - will just be part of our lives, and that time will only see it worsen until the return of our Lord and Messiah, Jesus. The question is, are we sure we could spot a fake? Let's investigate 2 Timothy, chapter 3, together, as it provides some useful information in identifying and combating the enemy's impostors.

Identifying a Counterfeit: We Are What We Do

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5

This is quite a list. I think it's important to take a look at each of these words, dissecting their precise meaning:

Notice the first two and the last item, lovers of self, money and pleasure -which sandwich all the others in between, are nothing more than the idols of our day. When we are lovers of these things rather than of God, then the others are the resulting behaviors, the actions and attitudes born of serving our own self interest rather than the One True God.

boastful - an empty pretender
arrogant - haughty, not humble
revilers - evil speech
disobedient to parents - literally not persuaded by their hard-won wisdom, not respectful to elders
ungrateful - not gracious but rather expectant, a sense of entitlement or false worthiness
unholy - this is opposite of holy, so basically common, not set apart or unlike the world, base
unloving - the root here is 'storge,' a fondness through familiarity, so unsocial or cold, no nurturing
irreconcilable - not able to be persuaded into a covenant (not with God or others)
malicious gossips - this is a serious offense, often equated with murder, think 'accuser,' the word is literally diobolos, get the picture?
without self control - this is a fruit of the spirit, beast-like behavior
brutal - again, beast-like or animal like, savage, not tame
haters of good - unappreciative or supportive of goodness and purity in men or God's word
treacherous - this implies giving someone over into an enemy's hands, a traitor (think Judas)
reckless - literally 'to fall forward,' to be rash in reactions or decisions or judgments or temper
conceited - proud, haughty, puffed up

Verse five ends with 'holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. This means that these impostors might, for example, do good deeds. They might be 'a good person,' they might give to charity, they might help others out, on the surface, it seems to be good. But further investigation of these individuals, underneath the surface, indicates that it is not God's power that they use or point to in what they do.

Overall, all of these behaviors can be classified as prideful, beast-like, accusatory, idolatrous, without love - in a word - LAWLESS. It is no coincidence that all of these above mentioned characteristics is a direct affront to one of the 10 Commandments, and others. But the question is, how can we know that these behaviors indicate lawlessness unless we have some knowledge of the Law?

You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 22:38-40

Oh, sure, we're pretty familiar with this one. In fact, it is thought by many that Jesus was simply redefining the law here in this scripture. But that's not what He was doing at all. He was explaining that these are the foundation upon which the rest of the commandments hang (literally). If we can't start here, we are lost from the onset. These are the basic building blocks upon which we learn of God's holiness standard. These two commands are what we must genuinely have obeyed in our hearts first before we can begin to pursue godliness through obedience to the other commands. Otherwise, it is all just empty legalism.

But make no mistake, we are expected to know and obey God's commands. Not for salvation, but as citizen's of God's Kingdom, we should be holy, as He is holy, because that is what He commands us to do. Lawlessness is symptomatic of false faith, and Jesus tells us that this has consequences:

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'
Matthew 7:21-23
If we are truly believers in Jesus the Messiah, if we are really in a relationship with Him and cognizant of His redemptive work in our lives, if the Holy Spirit truly resides within us, there our actions will show evidence of it.
You will know them by their fruits...So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, not can a bad tree produce good fruit.
Matthew 7:16, 17
I hope the seriousness of how we choose to behave is coming across here. Do not be misled, Beloved: you are what you do. If you see more of the characteristics of 2 Timothy 3:1-5 in your life than Galatians 5:22, this indicates a serious problem. That's not to say we never make mistakes, but we should be getting holier every day and should certainly be repentant rather than defensive about our bad behavior.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Romans 6:1-2 can we spot a fake when we see one? Or what are some ways to indicate whether we ourselves have been agents of the enemy? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to assess a situation:
• Whogets the glory of the good deeds being done?
• What is the motive of the good deeds being done?
• Do thewords one is saying heal or destroy?
• Are the words and behaviors biblical and representative of Christ? 
Application: Do you have symptoms of counterfeit faith? What fruit is your family seeing to prove whether or not you are an authentic follower of Christ? What do you think your friends see? What about strangers? And most importantly, what would the Lord say?

The Mission and Method of a Counterfeit: Spreading the gospel of Lies

Read 2 Timothy 3: 6-7
These are very difficult truths to think about. But I share them with you not to make you feel bad or to accuse you, but rather to protect you against the enemy and His lies. God wants to prevent His children from being deceived, and sometimes when He intervenes, it's painful because we have to admit that we were wrong or fell into a trap. But that's less painful than the enemy selling you false security that ends in your eternal separation from God.
So now that we've seen that counterfeits are out there, these next few verses indicate why it is that Satan preys on us.
It is well-documented that the body of believers is often referred to as a 'she.' A great example of that is that we are called the 'bride of Christ.' It is my view that here when the words weak women are used, it is to indicate us. It's not just about women here, it's about believers.
When I read verse six and think about a weak woman being preyed upon, about someone craftily inching his way in to a house in order to prey on her, my mind goes back to the beginning of the Bible. Back to the first woman in God's creation. Back to Eve in the garden of Eden. Wasn't she in her house, alone, unguarded? And didn't the serpent show up to prey on her weakness, seducing and manipulating her? Yes, he sold her a lie and made her an unwilling and unknowing vessel of that lie to influence others - by others I mean Adam, her husband.
This is not the only place we find Satan attempting to play on the weakness of a particular child of God in order to use them again Him:
• Evewas alone, and the counterfeit offered her the fruit of disobedience

• Israelwas waiting and losing faith, so the counterfeit offered the golden calf

• Samsonstruggled with pride and false security, and the counterfeit offered Delilah

• Miriam and Aaron struggled with jealousy, and the counterfeit offered gossip and slander

• Judas struggled with greed, the counterfeit offered money to betray a friend

Each time, the child of God was in a weak place and the enemy wormed his way in tooffer something that was self-gratifying and against God’s law, rendering them vessels of lawlessness - he turned them against God using the lust of the flesh, lustof the eyes, pride of life (1 John 2:16).

Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Are you beginning to see that there is more here at work than just you? The enemy seeks to use God's own children to slap Him in the face. You, Beloved, are in the midst of a holy war. This is why the enemy targets us, and this is why you must be on guard and avoid people like this, so that you will not be poisoned by them and rendered vessels of deceit.

Application: It is very important that you know your weaknesses! Take heed what you listen to, what you allow into your home, what you expose yourself to. Even seemingly harmless movies, songs, radio programs, and friends can pollute you. It may sound extreme, but the scriptures says "what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness" (2 Corinthians 6:14). It can only lead to confusion, and, as we know, God is not the author of confusion.

The Fate of the Counterfeits and the Confidence of the Believer - God Prevails!

Read 2 Timothy 3: 8-12
Okay, right about now you're wondering, who in the world are Jannes and Jambres? Since they are not found in any other part of the Bible, this makes it difficult. However, if we look to ancient rabbinic literature, we find them.

Travel back with me in your mind to the great Exodus account. Pharaoh had enslaved the Hebrew people, and Moses had been tasked with leading them to freedom. When Moses and his brother Aaron went to Pharaoh and performed signs to convince him that they spoke on behalf of God, it is stated that Pharaoh's magicians repeated their miracles. Jannes and Jambres are said to be the names of those magicians. They appear in other lore and seem to have had quite a reputation for the trickery they could perform.

Why does Paul mention these two? He is so purposeful. Let's look to what the sciptures say about the fate of these magicians:
AndMoses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD hadcommanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants,and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and thesorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with theirenchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents:but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
Exodus 7:10-12

Notice that the rods are what are being thrown down. And these two magicians seem to be able to keep right up the Moses and Aaron as far as the miracles they are performing. But in the end, the rod of Aaron (in the form of a snake) swallows up the rods of these false magicians.

Now bear with me a moment: this word for rod in Hebrew is מַטֶּה pronounced "mah teh."
It means more than just a stick. It also means offshoot. It also means tribe. So in other words, there is a double meaning to this whole scene. Here, the appointed prophets of God are throwing down their rods and the enemy is throwing down his. And in the end, God's rod devours the enemy's rod. If rod also carries the connotation of offshoot, or seed, or descendants, suddenly we see the whole thing is a shadow of the war waging between God and the enemy. The rod of Aaron is representative of Christ, who has overpowered all the death and destruction and sin that the enemy could dish out. He has won. And He will return again to complete the job of removing the enemy forever.

So Paul's reference here packs quite a punch. What he is telling us is that the fate of these counterfeits - although they are very convincing and cunning - is failure. The seed of the enemy will never prevail. So we better be sure we are on the correct side of that battle!

Knowthis, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signsand wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
Matthew 24:24

Application: Beloved,we are certainly a target that Satan wants to use to hurt God. He wants to turn us against the God we love usingtrickery and deceit, and if we are completely unaware that we are even doing that, that is even better for him. Do you know for sure that you know the difference? Are you certain of God's Wordand His methods?

One other thought I wanted to share with you is in reference to verse 12. I read The Communicator's Commentary on this passage and something the writer said really resonated with me. Here is what he writes:

“Why are Christians in America socomfortable? Why are we so accepted and well-received? One of two things must betrue. Either we live in a Christian culture that naturally provides a climateof acceptance and support, or we have accommodated ourselves to the valuesestablished by non-christian culture. I don’t find enough evidence to convinceme that ours is a Christian culture. Our comfort and acceptance can onlysuggest to me that we have been tamed by the world around us and haveacquiesced with the world’s values much more than we realize or dare to admit.”

Some of you out there are probably experiencing great social discomfort for standing firm in your pursuit of holiness. I know it has happened to me from time to time. For others out there in other parts of the world reading this blog, it goes beyond social stigma. Stay strong, my friends. I pray for you steadfastly.

Guarding Against Counterfeits: Our Weapon, the Word

Read 2 Timothy 3: 13-17

Some of you have read previously that I work for my church. I recently heard that several false Facebook pages had been created in our pastor's name. I don't know if anything was ever posted on his behalf that was particularly damaging, I think our amazing IT department nipped it in the bud, but I have to wonder: would people out there know our pastor well enough to discern his voice? Would we know the original well enough to spot a false Facebook page? Don't you think if someone hacked in to your page, it would be very evident to your friends and family? They know your tone, your word choices, your speech patterns.

The same concept goes with our Maker. He has given us the greatest defense against fake representations of Himself. These Sacred Writings Paul refers to are the Old Testament Scriptures we know now. It is interesting that he says they are the wisdom which lead to salvation. The Word is our weapon. In it we find out who God is, what sin is, its consequence, and its remedy. 

Now, some of you have tried to read the Scriptures and have become so frustrated because you've found them difficult to comprehend and have not been able to find relevance to them in your lives. They don't feel like wisdom that leads to salvation at all, so the temptation is to skip over them to the truth of Christ found in the New Testament. That is certainly how I started out. But now that I have had a few great teachers share some insights on what to look for, I have found that the Old Testament is absolutely essential to study and value in order to come to a full understanding of God's redemptive plan and work through Jesus. So I want to show you some very valuable tools for when you search the Scriptures, that are going to revolutionize the way you look at the Bible - and they are going to help you get to know our Lord.


There are certain characters that are highlighted, that stand out, that serve as 'types' with which we need to become familiar. Jannes and Jambres are an example of a type of false prophet. By observing their behaviors, we can apply that knowlege to other false prophets, such as, they look like the real thing, they can perform miraculous acts, and they will fail in the end. Another classic example of a type is Moses. Observe:

Moses was a prophet • Jesus was a great prophet
Moses fasted for 40 days • Jesus fasted for 40 days
Moses was the great mediator between God and Man • Jesus IS the greatest mediator between God and Man
Moses gave the Law of God to the people on a tablet of stone • Jesus's sacrifice made it possible for the Holy Spirit to write the Law of God on our hearts of stone, transforming us
Light radiated from Moses • Jesus refers to himself as the light of the world

These similarities are not coincidence. We are supposed to draw connections between the two of them. God was signaling long before Jesus ever came what His son would be like. And we can learn things about what Christ has done through what we observe about Moses. Make sense?

So when someone stands out: Samson, Melchizedek, Ruth - then there is probably a reason for that. It doesn't mean that they were not real people, but God rose them up to teach us something through their lives and ministries.


One of my favorite things about God is that He teaches through patterns. He is so merciful to those of us remedial learners, and so He repeats himself over and over again in different scenarios, making His point ever-clear.

A great example of this is the pattern of inside vs. outside. Throughout scripture we read about many stories where being inside represents being in covenant with God, resulting in protection, and being outside meant being outside a covenant with Him, resulting in judgment.

• Adam and Eve were inside the garden of Eden until they disobeyed, and their punishment was that they were removed to 'outside' the garden of Eden
• Those Israelites who marked their doorposts with the blood of the passover lamb and were inside their homes were safe from the destruction of the angel of death outside.
• Noah and his family were safe inside the ark, while those outside were exposed to judgement via the flood
• In the wilderness, those inside the camp could enjoy the presence of God; when rebellion and sin occurred, they were relegated residence outside the camp

This pattern is a picture for us, helping us to understand that safety and protection lie within His parameters and provision. Now those parameters, as defined by God, are to trust fully in Christ; only then are we safely in covenant and members of His kingdom. To disobey and rebel against Him by not doing this can only lead to destruction.


Shadows are concepts set in place that, that the same time they represent phsical truths, actually also represent spiritual matters. Truthfully, each of the 613 commandments have a spiritual equivalent; each are shadows of a spiritual principle. But here is a little bit of a less nebulous example:

For many years I wondered what the whole purpose of the sacrificial system and purity laws were. Only recently as I have personally studied out Leviticus have I begun to understand that these systems are a 'shadow' of what Christ ultimately came to do. The sacrificial system was a method for people to draw near to God; since His holy spirit did not yet reside in mankind, this was necessary. They could not approach Him just any time or in any way. They had a sinful nature that had to be atoned for so that they could approach His holy presence. There was also a specific set of purity rituals, set in place for in order to cleanse oneself to even become eligible to offer sacrifices to draw near to God. To be clean required water, typically in the form of a ritual bath. To be atoned for required blood, an animal sacrifice. This is the principle that still stands. It is no coincidence that during Christ's crucifixion, when the guard pierced His side, that both water and blood emptied from His body. This sealed the deal and connected Jesus to those purity and atonement systems: He was the source of that living water and that blood. He was what those systems alluded to. It is through Him that it was always intended that true cleansing and atonement would come. What was in place before were mere shadows of Him.

I do hope that these three new concepts will help you to begin to see the Old Testament Scriptures loved by Paul (and myself!) in a whole new way. As he says, all of the scriptures are useful and valuable. Through old and new testaments we experience reproof because we see sin defined and the punishment of separation with God explained. Through both testaments we are corrected in that we are taught we must be purified with water and atoned for with blood, and that Christ is the source of those for us. Through both testaments we are trained to pursue holiness, leaving behind the bondage of our past and walking in newness of life and freedom. And through both testaments we are taught that if our walk is genuine, we will look different than we did before God's intervention in our lives - we will bear His fruit through good works.

A Final Word

It is ever so important that we know our weapon, Beloved. We must learn it, memorize it, and live it out. It is the only safeguard against the enemy finding a foothold, entering your house, and corrupting you with His lies and using you for his own purposes. Know the original in order to combat the counterfeit. Know His word - the written word, and His messiah, the living Word.


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